WE WERE WALKING AROUND THE TOWN looking for buildings that were still standing from the turn of the century. On a road trip with a friend, he asked if we could make a stop at this small town where a relative of his had lived. He had never met the relative but wanted to find his grave. The town came as a total surprise to me because it had this mixture of old and new buildings that complimented each other, giving off an old-world vibe. As we walked down the main street, we found buildings that had been built and standing at the time my friend’s deceased relative had migrated to the area. My friend took photos of the buildings we had found; he wanted to form some type of bond to this man he never knew, but who yet was connected to him. All my friend had was an old photograph of his great uncle when he was a teenager. Whenever he looked at the photo of the man, he would see a strong resemblance to his Dad, who coincidentally happened to be named after this departed relative. As we walked around, I thought how lucky my friend was to be able to visit his relative’s town and travel the same streets his great uncle might have used when he was alive. HOW I WOULD HAVE LOVED TO BE able to visit the town of an ancestor. Since I was a little boy, I was always fascinated with looking at old, family photographs; both mine and other families. There is something about me having a similar genetic makeup to a long line of individuals that comforts me. Maybe because I really was never part of any type of group growing up that now I find myself comforted knowing I have an immediate connection to a group of people. I am always amazed when I run into someone who is a distant relative that shares similar features to myself or to an immediate family member of mine. Only recently I was at a restaurant where I bumped into a group of distant relatives. One of the relatives looked strikingly similar to one of my immediate family members that it startled me for a moment, especially because this person was a cousin twice removed from me. As we briefly talked about our family connection, I could not help thinking how important it is to me to look back at those who came before me to find out where I was going now. The main character in this animated, adventure comedy would know what I am talking about. A DISTANT VOICE THAT ONLY ELSA, voiced by Idina Menzel (Rent, The Tollbooth), could hear was calling out to her. Something about it sounded familiar enough to make Elsa leave her kingdom and put herself in terrible peril. With Kristen Bell (Bad Moms franchise, The Boss) voicing Anna, Josh Gad (Beauty and the Beast, Marshall) voicing Olaf, Jonathan Groff (Glee-TV, Looking-TV) voicing Kristoff and Sterling K. Brown (Hotel Artemis, This is Us-TV) voicing Mattias; this sequel was a visual masterpiece. The amount of detail and creativity put into every scene was breathtaking at times. As for the script it was good but not as good as the original movie. Since there was no main villain, I felt the drama waned at times. It seemed as if the studio’s marketing department was working overtime; for example, the script had a new cute character that would be perfect in toy version and there were places where songs were sung (though I could not remember one song when I left the theater) in the hopes that one of them would be a chart topper. All of this does not mean much since the theaters were packed with small children and their parents dressed up as one of the characters. There was such a high bar to reach due to the success of the first movie that it would have taken super powers to try and top it. I give the studio credit for its valiant effort. There was an extra scene at the end of the movie credits.
EVERY QUESTION WAS MET WITH A question or a story; I found it annoying. Like me, he was an employee of the company; though, in my opinion he was not an asset. He was a salesman who handled a large account for the company, which meant he was getting a good salary. At least, he wasn’t one of those braggards who liked to flash their wealth. However, he did have “airs” about him. In other words, his paperwork and follow through on his orders was never completed because he felt such things were beneath him. This was the area where I had to interact with him, and I did not like it at all. Whenever I asked him a question about his paperwork, he would usually tell me to talk to his assistant, that she had the details. And when I would, half the time she could not give me an answer because he had not turned in all of his paperwork into her. I would have to start the whole process over again with him. Maybe he was a nice person away from work; but as far as I was concerned all he cared about was making a sale and getting his commission on it. He never showed an interest in making sure we were invoicing the customer correctly, so we would get paid and for that reason I did not like him. LUCKILY, HE WAS ONE OUT OF a larger group of salespeople. If I had my way, I would have told him off and held up his commissions until the company received payment from the customer on his orders. Unfortunately, I did not own the company which meant I had to deal with him no matter what I thought of him. It was not an ideal situation; but honestly, it was not something I could not handle. The bottom line for me was I enjoyed my job and I wasn’t going to do anything to jeopardize it. Having to deal with a challenging employee was something I discovered a long time ago. It is a rare experience to work at a company where everyone gets along well. My philosophy about it is this; you do not have to like a person, you simply need to respect them. The bottom line when working at a company is for everyone to make a contribution that will assist the company/organization in being successful. This seems like a simple premise, but not everyone can do it easily. An example can be found in this animated, adventure comedy. NOTHING COULD STOP THE CONSTANT SNEAK prank attacks between the pigs and birds until mysterious ice projectiles started raining down on each one’s island. If the birds and pigs wanted to survive, they would have to find a way to work together. With Jason Sudeikis (Booksmart, Horrible Bosses 2) voicing Red, Josh Gad (Beauty and the Beast, Marshall) voicing Chuck, Leslie Jones (Ghostbusters, Masterminds) voicing Zeta, Bill Hader (Trainwreck, Maggie’s Plan) voicing Leonard and Rachel Bloom (Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, Most Likely to Murder) voicing Silver; this sequel was a bit slow taking off for me. Most of what I was watching seemed like a rehash of the previous film. However, as the story moved along, I started to take more notice of it. The animation was just as good as the previous film and there were several scenes that were fun to watch. What really stood out for me were the voices; I thought the actors were perfect with their characters, especially Jason and Leslie. Overall, this was an easy film that did not need much thought on the viewers’ part. In my book that is a plus since I did not have to struggle to stay engaged in the story.
2 ½ stars
SHE WAS PERFECTLY CONTENT HAVING HER head resting in my lap as I scratched behind her ears. If I stopped for any reason she would tilt her head back to look directly at me, with an inquisitive expression on her face. It was as if she was asking me why I stopped; it was the cutest thing. She had met me at the door when I arrived for the party. I had never seen her before, only hearing about her existence from a friend a week prior to the party. There were already people milling about when I showed up; so, I do not know if she was waiting specifically for me or was greeting every person who walked in. I had learned years ago never to extend a hand facedown because it might be perceived as a punishment. Instead, I extended my hand faceup below her chin line. This way it would look like a treat or gentle gesture and allow enough time for her to sniff my hand. Once she completed the inspection of my hand she bowed her head, followed by pressing her snout under my hand as if helping me lift my arm back up. I scratched her head as she gazed up at me. It wasn’t love at first sight, but I was smitten by her. SO THAT IS HOW I SPENT a good portion of my time at the party. At some point the host came up to talk with me. As I continued scratching her head the owner told me I would be totally surprised to hear she was the perfect guard dog. I asked what happened that made him realize it. He proceeded to tell me about the time a burglar broke into the house, during the middle of the day while he was at work. Evidently the burglar did not notice the food bowl on the floor when he walked through the kitchen. He wasn’t sure of the details; but he felt his dog did not greet the stranger, instead must have been watching the burglar as they walked through the house. The only reason he believed it was because of the muddy footsteps the burglar left as he was walking through the place. When the burglar went to unplug the big screen television, the dog made her move and attacked his leg. She ripped through the pants leg and clamped down on the burglar’s calf. When the owner got home the burglar was quivering in the corner of the living room with the dog guarding him. The host was right; I was stunned by the story. Such a sweet-faced dog, it just goes to show you dogs can do incredible things. REACHING NEAR THE END OF HIS life Bailey, voiced by Josh Gad (Beauty and the Beast, Marshall), was asked to find and protect his boy Ethan’s, played by Dennis Quaid (The Intruder, In Good Company), granddaughter in his next lifetime. Bailey would discover what life means to many different people. This comedic adventure drama also starred Kathryn Prescott (The Hive, Skins-TV) as CJ, Henry Lau (Final Recipe, Oh My Venus-TV) as Trent and Marg Helgenberger (Species franchise, Erin Brockovich) as Hannah. What sells this movie is the dogs; it is as simple as that. If you are not a dog person, then I do not expect you will enjoy this sequel. However, as a dog lover this film was a bit tedious for me. The script dealt with only two emotions, happy and sad, and kept things at a basic level. It also was manipulative in the way it spun the story. It was predictable with its good guy/bad guy scenarios; but luckily Josh’s vocal talent and the assortment of wonderful dogs kept me from getting totally bored.
1 ¾ stars
THE SET OF DOORS was still massive looking under the prominent archway sticking out from the building’s façade. Crossing over the threshold the first open area available was a huge lobby. The floor was well worn; the once polished tile was now tired and dull. The ceiling was made up with an elaborate maze of wooden beams that crisscrossed in such a way to form star shapes. Some of the stars had long chandeliers hanging down that threw off just enough light to barely encompass the lobby. There was a grand staircase that started in the middle of the area then swept up like a curl of blonde hair to the 2nd floor. At the top of the staircase just beyond was a wall of stained glass that looked like it was covered in a dark veil; the light coming from behind was no longer strong enough to shine through completely. Behind the staircase on the main floor was a row of doors, each one numbered. NO MATTER WHICH DOOR one walked through, there were railroad tracks waiting on the other side. The platforms were for the most part clear of debris; but there were splotches of dirtiness looking like broken shadows that died on the floor. The lighting was weak, needing the assistance of any light source coming through the glass ceiling above. Not every track had a train unloading or waiting for passengers. As for the train cars that were present, there was not one that did not look like it had gone through some type of battle. With bruises, scrapes and nicks; the cars were so old they would always squeal their aches and pains when leaving the station. Inside the cars one would be challenged to find a seat that did not have a rip in its fabric or graffiti displayed somewhere on the front or back. A passenger’s comfort was not taken into consideration when the cars were manufactured; the main focus was determining how many seats could be stuffed into each car. Seeing the passenger train in this dramatic, crime mystery made me wish I would have had an opportunity to experience such an elegant ride. WHEN ONE PASSENGER WAS found dead in their cabin it was up to Detective Hercule Poirot, played by Kenneth Branagh (Dunkirk, Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit) to find the killer before another passenger wound meet the same fate. Based on Agatha Christie’s novel this movie directed by Kenneth Branagh was a beautiful representation of a time long passed. With Daisy Ridley (Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Silent Witness-TV) as Miss Mary Debenham, Leslie Odom Jr. (Red Tails, Person of Interest-TV) as Dr. Arbuthnot, Penelope Cruz (The Counsellor, Head in the Clouds) as Pilar Estravados and Josh Gad (Beauty and the Beast, Marshall) as Hector MacQueen; the cast was filled with heavy hitting actors. I truly enjoyed the way this movie was filmed because it was beautiful to watch. However with the script being so lifeless I had to wonder why the studio hired such a talented cast only to have them do nothing. There were some actors that I cannot recall if they had more than 4 lines; it was silly especially since Kenneth was in almost every scene and in the viewers’ faces. Drama and intensity were missing from this picture. Considering the circumstances taking place there needed to be tension, thrills and excitement; none of that was present in this film. I felt this remake took the story and put it in a pretty package to entice viewers, only to have them open it up and realize they already had seen a better version sometime before.
IT IS STILL A MYSTERY, at least to me, how a person winds up with a strong sense of confidence. In fact is it even a sense? Maybe it is more of a belief; either way it is something I have struggled with for a long time. When I look back all the way to my school years, I do not recall any of my actions being motivated from a base of confidence. Now granted my brain is wired to be a defensive pessimist which I have always considered to be an asset. With this type of mindset I go into something expecting the worst; so if it fails I am not disappointed and if it comes out good then I am elated. The thing about being wired this way is it allows me to look at all the possibilities for ways things can go wrong, pushing me to go harder in finding a solution. Yet I still would like to know how it feels to do something without having to question oneself. THERE WAS A PROFESSOR who periodically would get his manuscripts published into books. He never thought about what market he was writing for or if his work would be successful; he just knew when he was done writing his final draft the piece would get sold. I was fascinated to the point of being enthralled by the confidence he exuded when it came to his writings and teaching. There never was a point where he would second guess, doubt or even think he would not be well received in his world of academia. I wondered if by hanging around him some of his confidence would rub off on me. The whole confidence thing is such a curious puzzle to me. Is it something that gets instilled in a child from their living environment? Can a person be taught to have confidence? And how much influence does the classroom experience have on a child? I wish I had answers to these questions for it would have given me more insight into the amazing confidence the main character had in this biographical, dramatic movie. DURING THE TIMES WHERE there were “White Only” water fountains NAACP lawyer Thurgood Marshall, played by Chadwick Boseman (Get on Up, 42), was sent to defend a black man accused of raping a white woman. It was a case that would take on historic significance. Based on a true event the cast also included Josh Gad (Beauty and the Beast, The Wedding Ringer) as Sam Friedman, Kate Hudson (Bride Wars, Deepwater Horizon) as Eleanor Strubing, Sterling K. Brown (This is Us-TV, The Suspect) as Joseph Spell and Dan Stevens (Beauty and the Beast, The Guest) as Loren Willis. First let me say the acting in this film was incredible; Chadwick and Josh embodied their characters fully. I am so impressed with Josh’s versatility and movie choices; he commanded the screen. The script and direction worked hand in hand to create not only a monumental event, but wrap it into a court thriller. Personally I would have enjoyed if the writers put in more of Thurgood’s back story because his confidence, especially in the environment he resided in, was unbelievable. With the courtroom drama taking up most of the air, the secondary side scenes were relegated to the background in my opinion. Please excuse the pun but the movie studio did justice to this story and I only wish I could have just a tenth of the confidence Thurgood Marshall had inside of him.
3 ½ stars
WHEN I ask why they are attracted to that certain feature of the individual, the answer is never the same. It is perplexing to me how people acquire a particular attraction to a person’s height, hair color or body type. Friends of mine to this day test me because they cannot believe I do not pay attention to the surface details of an individual. They will point at someone and ask me if I would be attracted to that person. Each time I have to tell them I do not know until I have had a couple of conversations with that particular individual. Maybe from my studies in psychology I attempt to rationalize a person’s tastes in potential dates. In some circles of thought one could say one of the reasons a person is attracted to redheads is because they are less available, rarer if you will. This person wants to stand out from the pack. Someone may be attracted to facial hair because it represents a father figure, an authoritarian. There are so many different interpretations, yet they still do not answer my fundamental thought: why should it make a difference what a person looks like? You can have what looks like the most perfect apple in your hand, but it still may be rotten underneath the skin. TAKING this a step further, I feel the same way about a person’s ethnicity. The only thing a person’s ethnic makeup tells me is what region of the world their ancestors were born. After taking in the cultural differences, I do not find anything different between people of different races. Each group produces geniuses, thieves, liars, bigoted and loving people. I find this whole discrimination thing puzzling and troubling. People are quick to make judgments about individuals solely based on skin color; I just do not get it. From what I have said you may begin to suspect, this fairy tale is one my favorite stories from childhood. SIMPLY by plucking a single rose off a bush Maurice, played by Kevin Kline (Cry Freedom, My Old Lady), was imprisoned by a monstrous beast, played by Dan Stevens (The Guest, Downton Abbey-TV). If it was not for his daughter Belle, played by Emma Watson (The Bling Ring, Harry Potter franchise); Maurice would have never survived the ordeal. This live action, fantasy musical was based on the animated film version of this story done in the 1990s. With Luke Evans (Dracula Untold, The Raven) as Gaston and Josh Gad (The Wedding Ringer, Jobs) as LeFou, the cast members not associated with singing surprised me with their vocal abilities. Emma took her character and made it a somewhat more modern and determined figure. I do not know if it was because of this or not, but I found her interactions with the Beast emotionally too fast. She never had a sense of revulsion upon meeting the Beast; in other words there was a lack of tension between the two. The same argument could be made with other portions of the film; the story was quickly pushed from one action scene to another I felt. At least the creativity and imagination that went into the sets and individual pieces were thoroughly entertaining. Along with the wonderful musical score and beautiful story, there are more things to like about this film than not. Maybe just do not look too deep under the surface to find the cracks.
MADE especially for you by those knotted skinny fingers, you could only imagine it must have taken months to create the gift. She is one of your favorite relatives who always remembers you on holidays and your birthday. This year she knitted you a multi-colored, bulky sweater. You could tell immediately the sweater was going to be way too big even before you unfolded it. Holding it by the shoulders you lifted it up so the body of the sweater cascaded down like a flood. The array of colored yarns clashed in such a sharp way that your eyes squinted as a few dominant colors seemed to vibrate in their confined patch of the sweater’s landscape. Gratefully you were not asked to try on the massive sweater; you did not want her to feel any anxiety seeing you lost in the yards of yarn spinning around you. It is always the thought that counts and the fact that it must have taken her months to knit only affirmed the affection and love the two of you share for each other. SINCE I believe there are no bad pets only bad owners, I keep the same attitude when I encounter someone’s dog or cat. I do not want the owner to know I am not fond of their pet; I simply remain quiet unless their pet is constantly jumping on me or is trying to bite me. Even the friends of mine who have dogs that greet you by sticking their snouts into your crotch are a bit annoying but still loveable. Having started out in veterinary science during my college years, I have always had a soft spot for animals. With that being said, I was looking forward to this comedic drama; however similar to what I said previously, I loved the dogs in this adventure film but was not fond of the script. THE relationship between dogs and their owners is explored in this heartwarming film. Directed by Lasse Hallstrom (Salmon Fishing in the Yemen, Hachi: A Dog’s Tail) and starring Dennis Quaid (Frequency, Vantage Point) as Adult Ethan, Juliet Rylance (Frances Ha, Sinister franchise) as Ethan’s Mom and Luke Kirby (The Samaritan, Shattered Glass) as Ethan’s Dad; this movie based on the novel could have been a much better picture. I was aware of the controversy surrounding a video that recently popped up of one of the dogs, but I did not feel I had all the facts to make a proper decision yet. In the meantime the script was so heavy handed that it was dripping with cloying sweetness to purposefully pull at the viewer’s heartstrings. The story was predictable and kept everything in a narrow band of emotional depth; it could have been decent if the writers had backed off from focusing on manipulating the audience’s hearts and concentrate on telling a straightforward tale. I found myself getting bored though I mostly enjoyed Josh Gad’s (The Wedding Ringer, Love & Other Drugs) voicing of Bailey. Part of me wants to give a better rating for the dogs’ performances but I know I need to be impartial. The movie studio may have had good intentions but the end result did not fit together very well.
1 ¾ stars
When I tell people I have a dark side most of them do not believe me. If a friend of mine is with me I will have them confirm it. You see I believe all emotions are valid; there is not one that is good or bad. There was that time I was on vacation with a friend and 2 of their friends in New York. Our last day we checked out of our rooms and had the hotel store our luggage since we did not need to be at the airport until late in the afternoon. After visiting a couple of final tourist sites we came back to the hotel to get our luggage and head out to the airport. When I asked at the front desk who we should see to retrieve our bags, I was told that person just went to lunch and would not be back for an hour. I stared in disbelief for a moment then said we needed to make a flight. The hotel clerk looked up at me and repeated the same information. My friend’s 2 friends started to turn away but my friend told them not to move, just wait and watch. I did not yell, belittle or use curse words; however, I looked directly into the clerk’s eyes and unleashed a stream of angry comments and scenarios of what would happen if we missed our flights. Let me just tell you they felt the heat and immediately found the hotel manager who went and retrieved our luggage on their own. With anger I firmly believe one needs to express it otherwise it will fester inside. In this case I felt I was right because it made no sense that there would only be one person responsible for the storage of guests’ luggage. Being familiar with anger I was curious to find out why these birds were so angry. THOUGH they may have been outcasts Red, Chuck and Bomb; played by Jason Sudeikis (Mother’s Day, Horrible Bosses franchise), Josh Gad (Jobs, Love & Other Drugs) and Danny McBride (Up in the Air, This is the End); were the ones who wanted to know the reason why a ship full of pigs came to their island. This animated action comedy was based on the popular video game, which I have never played. I do not know if there was anything in this film besides the birds and pigs that came from the game. Though the cast was made up of good choices for the characters, it was not enough to keep me interested. This was such an odd idea to develop a story around because what I saw on the movie screen was boring. The animation was okay but I did not find anything funny, besides I thought the message of the film was not appropriate for young children. What I did find interesting was the audience. For an animated children’s film there were more adults without children than usual, though it still was a small amount; but, it was something that stuck out enough for me to realize. I cannot say I was angry for sitting through this movie; I just did not care about it. Extra scene during the ending credits.
1 3/4 stars
Immediately I was struck by their fearlessness. I watched while their fingers without hesitation popped and dropped over the keyboard like convulsing spider legs. Just by pressing two keys at the same time they were able to get the computer to function in a way that took me a few more keystrokes. I knew they must have started at a young age playing video games. There is a certain attitude a gamer has when they are interacting with their computer or some other kind of electronic device; they appear more adventuresome to me. Where they have no problem trying out different commands, a non-gamer may get stuck at their computer afraid the next key they press will cause their machine to explode. I understand totally because I have a love/hate relationship with computers; I expect them to know how to fix themselves without asking me if something is okay to do. It is interesting to think about the recent generations that grew up with video games; I recall an article I read that talked about the positive effect the games had on a person’s eye/hand coordination. There was this one kid in school who would spend hours in the student union playing this one arcade game. His initials for the most points earned remained on the machine the entire time I was at that school. I would be quite curious to see what he is doing now in the world. Maybe he would be doing what the gamers were called to do in this comedic action film. BACK in 1982 a time capsule with examples of mankind’s life including video games was launched into space. Discovered by an alien race, they took the games to be earth’s declaration of war on them; so they reproduced the video games to attack earth first. This science fiction film had a great idea behind it, for it would attract an older audience for nostalgic reasons and a younger crowd who would appreciate the retro vibe of these “ancient” games. Not only did this comedy fail with its attempts to entertain, it made me a bit angry because of the blatant laziness associated with the script. Adam Sandler (Blended, Grown Ups franchise) as Brenner was the exact same character he has been in his last several films. I am tired of seeing the same thing and hearing the same type of jokes over and over. Adding in Kevin James (Here Comes the Boom, Paul Blart franchise) as President Cooper and Michelle Monaghan (Gone Baby Gone, Source Code) as Violet only increased the ridiculousness of this picture. Out of the entire script I chuckled 3 times as the expected excitement never materialized. If I would have known, my money would have been better spent at a video arcade then sit through this video void.
1 2/3 stars
It is understandable there would be more pressure if it is expected this would be the only time one would be walking down the aisle for their wedding. Whether the wedding is simple or elaborate, everyone involved wants everything to go as smoothly and perfectly as possible. From the weddings I have attended either as a guest or part of the wedding party, I have gone behind the scenes to see what steps were being taken to make the event appear seamless. Let me just tell you right from the start, think twice before having your pet be part of the ceremony. Sure they are cute while the guests are oohing and ahhing, but it can go so wrong so fast. There is no way I will ever forget this one wedding where the parents of the bride and groom had a strong dislike for each other. The fighting reached epic proportions. Whether the color of the flowers was not right or the seats did not have seat back covers, the parents argued over everything. Not only did they avoid eye contact with each other during the whole ceremony, they continued bickering and snapping at each other to the point I tried keeping my distance from them as much as possible. They may have forgotten what the day was supposed to be about, but did the parents in this comedic romance remember? JOSH Gad (Love & Other Drugs, Jobs) played Doug Harris, a frantic man who was about to get married to Gretchen Palmer, played by Kaley Cuoco-Swetting (The Big Bang Theory-TV, 8 Simple Rules-TV). Desperate to find groomsmen and a best man for the wedding Doug turned to Jimmy Callahan, played by Kevin Hart (About Last Night, Ride Along), who headed a company that specialized in a particular service that would aid Doug in his search. He would wind up getting something more than what he paid for with the service. This film festival winner was meant to be a comedy, with its outrageous premise. I did not totally dislike this film; I just thought it was nothing important to make a trip to the theater to go see. My biggest issue came down to Kevin Hart. As a stand-up comedian he is fine; but every role I have seen him in so far, he does the same thing over and over to the point I just find him annoying. The trailer for this picture shows exactly what to expect if one chooses to go see it. Though I chuckled a couple of times, there were no scenes that made me laugh out loud. If you are asked to go see this film; if I were you, I would send my regrets and wait for it to be available as a rental.
1 3/4 stars